In this extract from a chapter of The Frontline, entitled, “Shebeens, Blues and West End Nightlife’, the legendary soundman Lloyd Coxsone, talks about the importance of reggae music and its evolution from ska and rock steady.
“Before reggae came on the scene, Jamaica had created a couple of other national music beats that had become household names. The first was ska and then there was rock steady; after rock steady came reggae. The three beats changed with a slight generational gap between them. When reggae came it was a change of tempo but because everybody loved ska and rock steady, they just adjusted to the reggae beat.
Ska was good music and good lyrics. There was nothing in the music that would debase or challenge anyone or anything like that. It was good music to dance to. When it came to rock steady, it was the same thing, household music where people danced. When reggae came, we started to voice our opinions about the world, our culture and the Black condition. Everything became more cultural and educational. You started to hear lyrics and verses about Marcus Garvey, Paul Bogle and Kojo and Nanny of the Maroons. Jamaican and African history began to feature in the music and that started to raise consciousness amongst the youths. The Black youths that were born in England began to learn about Jamaica’s history and culture because of reggae music. Most of them had never been to Jamaica but the lyrics started to discuss the Island’s history, politics and slavery in the Caribbean. It wasn’t just youths of Jamaican parentage; it affected all youths whose parents came from the Caribbean and Africa. It brought a level of unity amongst us. It wasn’t just Jamaican people listening to it, it was Trinidadian, St Lucian, Grenadian, Guyanese, Nigerian and Ghanaian. People from across the Caribbean and Africa supported the music. It became a part of our culture and represented us as a people. We started to get a lot of messages coming from the music. The music gave young people a direction and became extremely powerful.
As a people we became more conscious, and proud of our culture – and began living better amongst each other as we embraced the message of unity. I would say it was reggae music that brought all the nationalities together in a conscious vein because of the lyrics that were coming through it.” LLOYD COXSONE